A Record Year

Author: Lauren Middleton

A Record Year

It is hard to put into words just how special 2017 has been for Austin Shepard and his team at the Circle S. Dreams have come true, records have been broken, and history has been made. Even through the unprecedented success, they all remain the same. They are the humblest people you will ever be around. Austin is exactly the same person now after winning millions of dollars that he was when he started his career.

Austin and Brett Davis after his run

Austin, Brett, and Bill Riddle leaving the arena

He started off the year with a few goals in mind, and, as many people know, when he has a goal you better be ready! It is inspiring to watch and ends up creating motivation in others. The most powerful part of it is that his entire team backs him up and wants these goals as much as he does, they are in it together!

As if winning the Open World Championship was not enough in 2017, while also setting the record for the most money won in a year, he finished it by winning the 2017 NCHA Open Futurity Championship aboard his young stallion Dual Reyish (Hottish x A Little Reylena) owned by Billy Wolf. This duo topped the first go round, the cumulative score after the second round, and the semifinals. Three wins that created the perfect set up to capture one of the hardest Championships in our sport. It was just meant to be for Austin and “Dre” as they marked a stellar 228 in the first set of finals and collected the $192,672 Champion’s check which included the $20,000 bonus from Great American Insurance and North Texas Chevrolet!

Austin and Dual Reyish

Austin knew he had a special horse from the start having purchased him from Kade Smith earlier in the year who he gives a great deal of credit to for the horse that he is today. He has been talented from the start and talked about by many when Kade began to take him to shows and everyone saw him. The talent has to be there but with that the maturity makes them handle their talents. Austin noticed by July he began to really come into his own and the excitement grew.

Austin and Dual Reyish

Dre’s story is special on many levels beginning with his mother, A Little Reylena or “Charm” as the Smith family affectionately calls her. Charm is the mare that started this adventure for the Smiths. She taught Kade how to be successful in this arena, and she is a blessing everyday as she continually proves to be a producer and, of course, a member of the family. We can only imagine how much love she has gotten over the past few weeks with all of the excitement in the air.

Everyone associated with the win were down on the floor celebrating! (from left to right: Deena Adams, Dustin Adams, Kade Smith, and Emily Smith)

With an amazing momma, all that is needed is the right daddy, and wow does Dre have a great one. He is part of the very first foal crop for the freshman sire, Hottish (Spots Hot x Stylish Play Lena). The outcome could not have been any better for owners Dustin and Deena Adams. The Hottish babies stood out throughout the show making a huge statement. Both of these families are so deserving of the fairytale ending that we witnessed throughout this year’s Futurity.

Dustin Adams and Greg Smith were all smiles during the awards ceremony!

Finally, the most amazing part of the story was for owner Billy Wolf. Dual Reyish is his very first cutting horse to ever own! The night of the Futurity Semi Finals was also the first time Austin had ever officially met him. Needless to say, this was the best first experience owning a cutting horse that you can imagine! Austin joked that it was all downhill from here for him. While it was evident that Billy had paid his dues in other industries, it just happened to all work perfectly this time, and he was on cloud nine! We love this whole story because of the wonderful turns of events that were life changing for all involved. That is what the Futurity is all about, each year the Champion makes the career of the horse’s mother, sire, trainer, owner, and the list goes on.

Owner Billy Wolf drinking his share of the champagne

Ten years ago, when Austin won his first NCHA Futurity aboard High Brow CD (High Brow Cat x Sweet Lil CD), his son Cade was only six-years old and much too young to prepare Austin’s horses. A previous employee and friend, Ben Johnson, was that history changing stallion’s caregiver. This time around Cade was able to get his dad’s Futurity Champion ready. Austin commented that Cade knows Dre inside and out. He also got ready last year’s Reserve Champion of the NCHA Futurity and Champion of the NCHA Summer Spectacular, Sir Long Legs (High Brow Cat x Lil Lena Long Legs). This crew, like so many others, works tirelessly all year long to prepare for this show. It is the crown jewel for all cutters. To have something like that to share with your son has to make the whole experience unlike any other. It is not just about the buckle and prestige, but it is about the memories made with each other. At the end of the day, nothing else is held in higher regard. This year was about memories for this family. Every turn was another triumph whether it be an actual win or something learned from a defeat. Their entire barn has been successful, and they can be truly proud of that.

Austin celebrating the win!

See Austin's interview with CHTO below:

Reserve Champion was Lee Francois riding The Animal (Cat Ichi x My Little Abra) marking a 225.5 deep in the second set. It was amazing how each cow was better than the last in his run. The crowd got louder and louder as the run went on. “Animal” is very different than his full sister, Ichis My Choice, 2016 NCHA Horse of the Year, but also similar in that he moves in such a unique way. He was originally bred by EE Ranches and is now owned by Richard and Beth Carney. The duo collected the huge $169,404 check for their Reserve Championship. The stallion came by his name at the NCHA Select Two-Year-Old sale in 2016 when they purchased him. Richard was watching him work and said “wow what an animal!” His barn name became Animal, and they later decided to change his registered name to match the theme. It is very fitting from what we can tell, and we are excited for the future of this pair.

Lee Francois and The Animal

"Animal" just smiling for the camera during awards

Third Place was Michael Cooper riding Special Nu Boon (Boon Too Suen x Special Nu Kitty) marking a 224! To say Michael and “Special” had a hair-raising run would be a vast understatement. The cows were tough, and, on top of that, the first two tried to leave the working arena! The little gelding stayed hooked through it all and looked phenomenal. His cheering section, including his family and the RVR team, was overwhelming. Owners, Rose Valley Ranch, were in attendance to witness their horse win the impressive $126,135 check. Rose Valley also pays out an incentive to all Boon Too Suen offspring who make the NCHA Futurity Finals, adding another $25,000 to their earnings! There were two other horses to make the finals that qualified for this incentive taking home the extra $25,000 on top other their finals earnings, the fourth-place horse CR Smart Boots (Boon Too Suen x CR Smart Little Kitty) with rider Ty Brown and Real Suen (Boon Too Suen x Donas Cool Cat) with rider Sean Flynn. Special Nu Boon was also the Gelding Division Champion in this year's Open Futurity.

Michael Cooper riding Special Nu Boon

Michael's wife Jenny nervous during his hair raising run!

None other than the legendary Ronnie Rice was the Senior Division Champion of the NCHA Open Futurity riding Docs Fanci Cabernet (Woody Be Tuff x Fancy Frostina) owned by Gary Goodfried.  It just would not be a Futurity finals without Ronnie in attendance!

Ronnie Rice and Docs Fanci Cabernet

In reflection on the 2017 NCHA Futurity, several realizations seem to standout in our minds. World Champions received their crowns. Records were broken. Families and friends celebrated. New horses were added to our barns. Our Futurity Champion drank from his trophy while his crew cheered behind him. It is hard not to crack a smile thinking about all the fun and joy the Futurity brings. The best part is the Futurity does not represent the end of a year. As we go home to get into the holiday spirit, the excitement starts to build because our babies, our three-year olds, entered their first herd of cows. Whether they got to the finals or not, they are ready now. The talent this year was breathtaking. And I don’t know about you, but we say bring on 2018! Looks like we’ve got a show for you.

Awards for Lee and The Animal

Jody Galyean and his son Beau after Jody's 220 to finish fifth in the finals!

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